Can wearable technology predict heart problems?

 In Medical Product Design

Today, wearable devices provide people with a vast amount of data to help them make more informed decisions about their health and diet regimen. These wearables have also demolished many of the walls that once existed between providers and patients by providing the latter with greater access to real-time health information.

For those who already wear a device, you're probably wondering what future gadgets will accomplish. Let's discuss this future and how it has both its supporters and detractors.

"Cambridge Heartware is developing wearable tech that will inform people about abnormal heart rhythms."

What's the future hold for wearable devices?
Cambridge Heartware, a U.K.-based company, is currently developing wearable tech that will provide people information about abnormal heart rhythms and diagnose problematic conditions immediately, according to The Hindu Business Line. This device, which relies on cloud technology, may allow patients, especially those located in rural areas, to abstain from visiting a doctor for diagnosis.

"It is particularly geared for the over-65 age groups who have the highest prevalence of strokes globally. The device is very easy to mass-produce and the data can be transmitted remotely anywhere in the cloud, where our software is tracking and diagnosing any abnormal rhythms," Rameen Shakur from the University of Cambridge told Business Line in an interview.

Shakur continued by saying, "Our effort is to make this device accessible to people – especially in rural areas, where, often, access to medical specialists coupled with diagnostics services is very difficult."

While Business Line noted there are several other companies that are also producing similar technology, Juned Kadiwala, a team member at Cambridge Heartware, explained that Heartware's device is unique because it takes advantage of cloud technology and is simple to use.

"Its greatest edge is that the device can process the data in the cloud and give an instantaneous diagnosis," said Kadiwala.

What are critics saying?

Critics aren't so much opponents of the product as they appear to be realists. For example, Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute, questioned the lofty expectations people have about certain wearable devices, saying in an interview with Fortune that measuring rhythms isn't enough information to predict problem arteries. 

"There's no wearable that's likely going to provide that," said Topol. "There's just too much uncertainty and fluctuation among available consumer devices, which would have to go through the intensive Food and Drug Administration medical-device clearance process before they could actually provide more information to caregivers. The exact genetic and biological warning signs of a brewing heart attack also aren't totally clear yet."

Yet, despite Topol's reality check, he (and others) believe the future of wearable health technology could lead to more predictive, alert models if they're able to overcome bureaucratic red tape.

"These products have done wonders for providers, patients and general health enthusiasts."

We believe it's important to understand that despite some obvious limitations in current wearable devices (just like there is in all technology) these products have done wonders for providers, patients and general health enthusiasts who want to stay more informed about their well being.

People now don't have to wonder whether or not they're staying on their health and diet plan. They don't have to track calories with a pen and paper. They can simply look down at their wrist and see all of the information right in front of them.

Fitbit and other wearable products are the first step to more advanced solution that could one day not only diagnosis problem arteries but also prevent heart attacks by sending out alerts minutes, hours or days before the event. A device, such as the one created by Cambridge Heartware, could be the next step in a host of future medical devices that save lives.


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